There has never been a better time to look into jobs in nonprofits. In the past decade, nonprofits have grown to make up over 10% of all private sector jobs. They've also remained one of the industries with the most consistent growth. There are a lot of great resources for getting your foot in the door-- if you know where to look.
But it's not just a matter of knowing where to look, you also need to know where to start. For such a big industry, this can be a daunting task. But fear not: Below, you can find a step-by-step outline of your path into a nonprofit career. However, before we dive deep, it is important that there are different types of jobs in nonprofits , and each organization is unique. Nonprofit careers can be very rewarding, and they are definitely worth exploring.
1. Learn your local nonprofit scene
What causes are you most passionate about? Do you know about how nonprofits work with these causes? What does the average day working at a nonprofit actually look like? These are the questions you should be asking yourself as you research nonprofits. As you look into answering these questions, keep an open mind. You never know what work is going to be available, or what work is going to speak to you.
Once you have some knowledge on your side, you should look into your local nonprofit scene. It's important to note, you don't need to worry right away about knowing "the right people." Instead, focus on getting to know "the people" in general. Get to know those involved in the local scene, or at least start by getting to know what they do. If networking events aren't something you feel comfortable with right away, then get to reading about it!
Social media engagement is a great way to do this, both for learning and discussion. Facebook and Twitter serve an important role in this process, and you should absolutely follow and join organizations and groups that interest you. But you shouldn't underestimate LinkedIn or MeetUp's nonprofit sub-sites. They're very active communities with a lot to offer. (Perhaps even more than the traditional social-media channels, because of their focus.)
And if you'd like a little more practical knowledge to work with, you should consider informational interviews. These are less formal conversations with people in the industry. Generally, these are conducted like a normal interview, but much more casually; picture something like a sit-down conversation at a coffee shop. They're a great way to show interest and learn about nonprofits from the insiders, without any pressure, and if nothing else, these interviews get your name out there.
2. Volunteer and intern in your field
It's been proven that a majority of businesses value volunteering when considering a potential applicant. Yet, only about 30% of job applications actually include volunteering experience. In the nonprofit world, not only is volunteering a boost to your resume, it's directly related to your field. Volunteering is an indispensable part of your job search.
Once again, LinkedIn's nonprofit sub-site is a valuable resource for finding volunteer work and internships at nonprofits. You should also be asking people in your desired field what work needs to be done around you (if you've made those connections), or visiting local charitable venues and asking what could use your involvement. Whether or not you can easily find jobs in nonprofits, going to volunteering events can definitely go a long way. And, importantly, you'll be doing some good!
Once you've gotten to a point where you're looking for more serious positions and internships, there are a lot of useful job boards to find jobs in nonprofits. However, these nonprofit job search engines don’t always include all of the non profit jobs available, and using find.jobs instead could save you some time. You can search our non-profit jobs here. Idealist has a pretty great career advice blog and it also functions as a search engine for nonprofit opportunities. Even if you aren't at the stage where you're applying to jobs, looking through these sites is a great way to get an idea of what the day-to-day work is sought after in your field. If you decide to use nonprofit search engines, you will have to learn non profit position titles in order to narrow down your search. Once you know what non profit job titles to search, you will be able to find non profit job descriptions and salaries.
3. Make job recruiters' jobs easy
This sounds obvious, but there may be more you can do than you are already doing.
Know your industry, the specific nonprofits you are applying to, and their causes, before you submit your resume or talk to someone on the inside. It shows your interest and saves the person you are dealing with a lot of time if you don't have to play catch-up at the start of an interaction.
As you join your nonprofit's community, communicate clearly and work promptly. You may be tempted to rush to show how effective you can be, but it's important to do things right, not just quickly. Sloppiness is not a good look. As much as possible, show your pragmatism without forgetting the big picture: People are here to do good, and you're a part of that.
On your resume, and in interviews, have a clear idea of how you will pitch yourself. Know how you will leverage your experience and strengths. Be clear, concise, and don't underestimate the power of good grammar. Understand that all of your strengths, not just your volunteer work, can work to your advantage. You never know what skills of yours are going to be useful someday!
4. Don't stop exploring jobs in nonprofits
Near the beginning of this piece, we reminded you to keep an open mind about all this, and that may be the most important piece of advice of all. You never know what jobs in nonprofits are just around the corner, and you never know which nonprofits are going to be the most meaningful and exciting to you.
Be open, be flexible, and be helpful, from your conversations to your volunteering, from your interviews to your career. If you lack previous experience, you may have to settle for more entry level non profit jobs. The nonprofit world is big, but it is made up of smaller local scenes like yours. Get out there and see what you can find out about your corner of the world: There's probably more there than you think!
5. Nonprofit careers can be very rewarding
Often, people will transition out of corporate jobs into jobs in nonprofits seeking more fulfillment in their lives. If you love knowing you have a positive social impact, nonprofit careers may be a perfect fit for you. There are all sorts of different positions in a non profit organization, and there are definitely a couple that fit your skillset. As mentioned earlier, volunteering can be a great way to get your foot in the door with local organizations and get a little taste of what it is like to work several types of jobs in nonprofit organizations.
Author: Derek Dashiell